Friday, December 05, 2008

The Fantasy Man's Latest Crush: Jacoby Ellsbury

Okay, enough is enough!! Let me justify my love for Jacoby Ellsbury in 2009! In 2008 it was Joba Chamberlain and Nate McLouth (oh, and Rickie Weeks, and Felipe Lopez...oops)! In 2007 it was Rickie Weeks and Ronny Paulino (bad move). In 2006 it was Grady Sizemore (I'm a genius)! Three out of eight isn't bad, right?

This year I am very high on Ellsbury, the same way everyone else is way too high on Evan Longoria and Dustin Pedroia. I happen to pick Ellsbury as my guy to have a crush on this year. There has been a debate among Fantasy Man faithfuls and loyalists because I recently compared Ellsbury to a one Grady Sizemore in my 2009 Top 50 Rankings.

For the record, whether on paper, on this blog, or the podcast, never have I said Ellsbury was a proven hitter. If I ever said Sizemore was only "slightly better" than Ellsbury, it's because I was talking about what his potential fantasy numbers can do for your fantasy team. I just want to make that clear. Of course, I currently believe that Grady Sizemore is a better real life player, but in fantasy life, there's another story here to think about!

The Sizemore/Ellsbury Debate...
I never said Ellsbury was a proven hitter. What I am saying is that Ellsbury will potentially be better in BA/SB while Sizemore will be better in the power departments of HR/RBI. I think we can all agree on the SB winner, the HR, the RBI and that runs will be a wash since now Ellsbury is the everyday CF. The question is the batting average. Is Ellsbury proven? No. But.....
2008 - Ellsbury hit .280 in 554AB
2007 - Ellsbury hit .353 in 116AB in his short stint in Boston, hit .298 in 363AB in AAA and .452 in 73AB in AA.
2006 - In A he hit .299 in 244AB, hit .308 in 199AB in AA.
2005 - Ellsbury hit .317 in A ball in 139AB

What part of that says that Ellsbury will hit lower than .280? I know Ellsbury is unproven, but you have to look at these past minor league numbers. Sizemore has similar quality minor league numbers but Sizemore is a K machine, thus the yearly poor average. Those numbers above clearly suggest a potential .290+BA on the safe side and upside of .300+. That's clear I think. Is he proven? No. But does his past numbers in the minors show potential? Yes. Does his minor league numbers show that his numbers could increase as he moves up a level? Yes they do. This is why I like Jacoby Ellsbury in 2009. Add on the fact that he has the everyday job, should pull in 650+AB, has Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jason Bay and J.D. Drew hitting behind him and has speed with some developing power. With the Coco Crisp trade, Boston is about to unleash a beast in Ellsbury! He won't have Sizemore's power, but he certainly has a bit more speed and I believe will have a better batting average, and as much as 20 points higher than Sizemore. The downside on Ellsbury is the potential for a monster slump. However, he's always on base so I don't know if he's a guy who can have entirely terrible halves.

Its not like I just jumped on the Ellsbury bandwagon. I've done my homework on him specifically because I upgraded him over a lot of other young players. There is potential to be a fantasy stud is here! However, want to get a little more crazy???? Compare his numbers with that of Jose Reyes!!! Take away about 20 steals (potentially as we all see Reyes as a 70+ guy) and you have a Jose Reyes type in the 4th-6th rounds. Even better, sometimes I've seen Ellsbury drop into the 7th or 8th.

2008 Jose Reyes -...........297/16HR/68RBI/56SB/113R in 688AB
2008 Jacoby Ellsbury - .280/9HR/47RBI/50SB/98R in 554

Give Ellsbury another 100AB and is it realistic to think that he could hit 3-5HR/12RBI/6SB/15R more to match those Reyes numbers?? I sure do! So for a minute, forget comparing Ellsbury to Sizemore, how about comparing him to Reyes??!! Of course, this is assuming Ellsbury is still a 50+SB guy, which right now, we have to believe!! If he's a 40+, which I think is more likely, all the other numbers may still match up meaning you are getting a steal later in the draft. What this means for your fantasy draft is that if you pass on Reyes or miss him in the first round, feel free to draft big time power, because you can make up these stats later with a guy like Ellsbury in maybe the 5th round, to be safe!

Not as many people value Ellsbury the way I do, but the kid has talent that is designed for fantasy baseball. Period. Better than Sizemore? No. Better than Reyes? No. Actually, better than Sizemore/Reyes fantasy wise? Not yet, but maybe after 2009! If you value batting average the way I do, you might feel this way too.

FYI....Sizemore BA numbers suck because he's a strikeout king!! Sizemore had 130 K in 634AB in 2008! Ellsbury had only 80 in 554AB. That's why Sizemore's BA blows, the K's. In those 3 minor league seasons, Ellsbury only struck out 127 times in 1017 AB. Sizemore K'd 604 in 2695AB(his last 5 seasons). That's insane! That's 130-150K per year!So yeah, I based my analysis on the fact that I believe Ellsbury can be a .290+hitter. If he hits .310 and steals 50+, don't kill me here, but now your looking at Jose Reyes numbers rather than Sizemore's. That's assuming Ellsbury can hit 3-5 more HR this year!

So that's my take on Ellsbury! If you see me blast Ellsbury in the 5th or 6th round of a draft and it seems early...that's why! Good luck this season!

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